By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Bubba Watson is the Masters champion and a guy worth watching, whether that means spending money on a ticket or time in front of the TV. He keeps life simple, hits outrageously difficult shots and makes golf look fun.
What's not to like about that?
CBS Sports said its overnight rating from the final round of the Masters, which Watson won in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen, drew an 8.1. That was down from the 10.4 the previous year when eight players — including Tiger Woods — had a share of the lead at some point and Charl Schwartzel won it with four birdies at the end.
Theories abound on the television audience. It was Easter Sunday, which typically brings lower ratings. Woods wasn't around — he tied for 40th for his worst finish in a major except for the three times he missed the cut. And to a broader audience, Watson didn't have much of a Q-rating unless someone happened to see some of his crazy videos or they just liked hearing his name.
That should change.
The winning shot for Watson, which instantly became part of Augusta National lore, was a gap wedge that he hooked out of the woods, around the trees and onto an elevated green that set up an easy par on the second playoff hole. He referred to it as a "crazy" shot and "pretty easy." For him, it was both.
Watson has been doing that stuff for years.
Just last month at Doral, with a tree in front of him and the green 135 yards away, he hit a 9-iron and aimed it 20 yards right of the green, and then sliced it back beyond the flag until the strong left-to-right wind pushed back on the other side of the hole, 6 feet away.
Yeah, pretty easy.
Watson made the rounds Tuesday, typical of a Masters champion, but with a few twists. Golf Channel wasn't on his list, but he paid a surprise visit in his green jacket for the "Morning Drive" show. Then, it was off to New York for scheduled interviews, concluding with David Letterman.
Asked about the TV ratings, Watson said golf was in a good place with younger players starting to emerge, and how he might reach some who aren't on tour yet.
"Hopefully, I can influence some kids to start playing ... and build the game bigger and bigger," Watson said on CNBC.
He's a tough act for anyone to follow because no one hits the ball the ball like Bubba. That's why Woods used to invite him along for practice rounds early in the morning at the majors. He was curious to see this self-taught guy from the backwoods of Bagdad, Fla., hit shots that went high or low, left or right, as if it were a whiffle ball, which is how Watson learned to play as a kid.
Anyone can hit the ball in the trees. The hard part is getting out of a mess, and that's what makes Watson fun to watch. His win at the Masters was a reminder that golf doesn't require the highest level of training. It just takes desire, and a lot of practice.
"I think people are going to realize everybody has a chance to do this," Watson said. "You don't need expensive golf coaches. You don't need expensive golf courses. You don't need all that. You can just learn to play in your backyard and go to the municipal courses and learn how to play."
That's the Bubba way.
That was the Seve Ballesteros way some 50 years ago when he manufactured shots with a 3-iron. Phil Mickelson had a chipping green in his backyard and learned how to hit shots that went behind him.
About the only ones not inclined to celebrate Watson's win are the coaches and psychologists.
Woods is on his fourth coach, which is four more than Watson ever had. His later father, Gerry, showed him the basic fundamentals of swing and grip, and Watson figured out the rest. It was always a game to him, and it still is. That element has been missing from so many players in this era of golf that makes millionaires out of more than 100 players each year.
"If I have a swing, I've got a shot," Watson said.
The fun side of Watson goes beyond the manicured fairways. In one of his videos, he calls his shot from his home — under the porch, over the roof and into the hot tub. He pulled it off — who knows how many times it took him and, really, who cares? He was so excited he jumped into the pool with his clothes on.
He has balanced himself on tires and tried to hit the ball teed up on another tire. He once showed off his power by driving the ball through a watermelon, and then took a bite out of what remained. In a desperate attempt to get on the Ellen DeGeneres show, he hit a golf ball from inside his house, over the pool and into a red bucket.
Watson once said kids were attracted to him because they like saying his name. Or maybe because deep down, he's still one of them.
He doesn't have a sports psychologist.
"Somebody else is going to tell me what I should think out there? That's not any fun," he once said.
He once said he would quit the game before he ever took a formal lesson.
"I don't want a team of people behind me showing me how to swing on computers. That's just not me," he said at Doral, where he nearly forced a playoff with a 4-iron under the palm trees and over the water on the scariest finishing hole in golf. "It's just like a math problem, except I probably wouldn't get the math problem right."
No, but he would have fun trying.
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